Synopsis by Jay Mann
Tracy Weisert here! I hosted our Stuart Stone seminar July 28 and USUALLY write the follow-up article. Right after our seminar, I drove 400 north into the mountains and redwoods to teach at the Young Actors Theatre Camp, so Jay Mann of Casting Networks took over my article duty for this month. On an acting note, a few years ago right after studying with Stuart and another coach, I booked a national Super Bowl commercial directed by the famed Joe Pytka. Thank you again Stuart. Read on!
For the July Inside The Industry Seminar, we hosted Casting Director Stuart Stone as our guest speaker. We’ve had Stuart as a speaker a few times in the past and he’s always proved a popular guest. Here’s his bio:
Emmy and Cleo Award Winning Casting Director STUART STONE began his career as an actor, but soon realized his true calling was casting. After years of learning his trade with some of the best in the business, Stuart began his own casting company – Stuart Stone Casting. Stuart has been casting for over 15 years and has cast hundreds of television commercials and booked thousands of actors. Stuart casts union and non-union commercials as well as Film and Print.
Stuart wanted to do an Q&A with the actors to share information from his experience as a long-time commercial casting director.
Stuart began, “I want to start with questions. I want to answer what you guys want to know about the business. Those of you that don’t know me, I’m pretty open-book here. I’ve been known to have a big mouth and answer directly how it is, straight-forward. Those of you that do know me, know that I have that mouth [laughs]. But I do it purposely for you guys, because it’s really important with the business the way it is. How to get ahead, how to stand out. What are the right things as opposed to the things that might not get you to the destination you want to go to? How do we get there?
There’s many ways to skin a cat, so to speak, some will be more be more beneficial, some will get you more auditions, more bookings.”
Stuart gave the audience a useful analogy, “…you take your career/resume and you have to put it in the right dirt. If you put a lemon tree in the right dirt you’re going to get a lot more lemons than if you put it into some bad soil. So it depends on what kind of training you guys have at the bottom: the better your training and study is, the better the fruits are that result from it.”
Stuart got a feel for the type of actors in attendance with a show of hands, “How many people have agents? How many people have managers? How many people are not actors? [laughs] Well I’m happy you’re here too. It always surprises me, people have this opportunity to come here, and I know it’s a beautiful day but it amazes me out of all the actors in Los Angeles there’s only 100 here in this room. So you guys have this huge advantage to get information that will help your career.”
An actress asked about “The Rule of Seven”, where you need to have seven casting directors within your network, and how do you get to know those casting directors? He responded, “This is my problem with seven, because you could pick seven that aren’t as busy as seven others.” “Which seven?”, the actress chimed back. “Why limit it to seven? It’s an old marketing thing, which I think is a good idea, but then seven would have been not such a big deal. But as the number of casting directors grow so does the number you should be hitting. So I would say pick twenty. I would you ask your agent who are the casting directors that are working currently? They know who is having casting calls right now. Or someone you’ve met [at a seminar for example], stay on top of them, just keep collecting, either through interaction or because you’ve been to an audition for them. I would just keep collecting and find out who’s working.”
Stuart commented, “All of those [online] services have come up with a way to give us a way to get to actors that don’t have agents.”
Regarding training for commercial acting, “You don’t need to study commercials like you do theatrical, where you should be in an ongoing theatrical class. But you should definitely take improv. Have a separate improv class and a separate commercial coach and take a six-week course of commercials.”
An actress asked Stuart if he had any recommendations on places to take improv classes. Stuart replied, “There are some that I really love, but they’ve all got their own thing, so you gotta audit them.” He mentioned a few places to study/practice improv:
- UCB Upright Citizens Brigade
- The Groundlings
- Second City
- and other various troupes
In response to an actor asking if LACasting is necessary, Stuart said, “LACasting has everything you need with every bell & whistle to help your career. To not have LACasting is to not participate in acting. That’s just what it’s become. There’s no way in and through this business without LACasting anymore.”
Stuart advised the actors when they have questions on how submissions or features work on their LACasting account, “Call LACasting, they have a staff there. That’s what Beau set up. If you guys don’t know how to set something up call them. I can’t tell you how many actors have their training put down at the very bottom and therefore it doesn’t show there is a training because they didn’t click the proper buttons [to create the resume]. So what they do is in “Special Skills” is they write all their training. So you look at all these resumes with training under Special Skills and it doesn’t register and we don’t know where to find their training. Or instead of using the drop-down boxes and putting the headings in they’re just going in and typing up their whole resume.” (Editor’s note: It’s important to have your resume properly entered on your profile. The casting director sees, at a glance, which actors have resumes on their profile. Click here to view a video on how to create your resume.)
Stuart gave some great advice when an actress who has a many years worth of photos on her resume asked him what type of photos he likes to see. He responded, “I just want you to look like you were if I took your picture right now. Always use your number one photo to keep in contact for your marketing, but I wouldn’t keep many other photos, because if I’m looking back, I’m like, ‘Which girl is she?’. This is so I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to second guess who’s coming in the door.”
A theatre actor asked, “I’m a theatrical [theatre] actor, I’ve never done television or film, but I would like to get into television and film. So if I was going to submit a resume, what would I put on it?” Stuart answered, “Put your theatre, and the acting you’ve done, and make sure your coaches are good.” He then referred back to the analogy he gave at the beginning of the seminar, “[On your resume] if you have nothing to put on the top, imagine the bottom of your resume is the dirt, the better the training and everything on the bottom, the more fruits you’re going to get when you plant the tree. So if you’re training with the right coaches, the right schools, you’ll get the better agents that way, you’ll get in the door.”
An actress commented about something Stuart said a long time ago, “I remember that it put me at such ease, something about embracing your imperfections.” Stuart replied, “Those flaws to me (and they’re not flaws, that’s the thing, we think of them as flaws), those imperfections that we hate about ourselves are so great as actors because it brings something to you as a person. Embrace what you have. Everything you have makes you different and sets you off and makes you that special, unique person. And I’m not saying that in the touchy-feely-special-unique-person kind of way, but I’m saying it in the sense of really take that in and appreciate that you have those because the next person doesn’t. We love that stuff.”
An actor asked, “What does an actor have to do to get on your ‘bad actor’ list?” Stuart, continuing his focus on positive things answered, “Let’s go with what they have to do good. …There’s a lot of things you can do that make yourself memorable so you do get in. You can come in and be yourself, have great energy. Remember, I always say, ‘Where does your audition start?’. Does anyone know where your audition starts? Your audition starts when you get out of your car. Be careful who’s around you.”
Stuart closed the seminar by giving some final words of wisdom, “Don’t give up. Stay the course. Stay out of trouble, and most of all, have fun at it. It’s a craft that you have to have fun at. You have to work. It’s show business, it is a business, you have to run yourself as a business. It’s not show up, or show off. When you do show up, you can show off, but remember it’s a business. That said, with this economy and this industry, it’s a hard business to navigate. So don’t get down on yourself, don’t second guess yourself. You gotta embrace who you are. Look at yourself as if you were to hire yourself as a boss. Do you have everything you would need to work at your company?”
Stuart provided his contact information and where to get more info about his on-camera technique workshop and his consulting sessions for actors.
Update from Stuart: Since the seminar, one actor booked a commercial and reported it was from the information stuart gave and many others had callbacks.